IBM physicist and pioneer in his field, Dr. Stuart Parkin, honored for inventing the “spin-valve” in 1989 — found in nearly every hard drive sold today

SAN JOSE, CA and HELSINKI, FINLAND – April 09, 2014 — / — IBM (NYSE: IBM) today announced that researcher and IBM Fellow, Dr. Stuart Parkin, is the winner of the prestigious Millennium Technology Prize, awarded every two years by the Technology Academy Finland (TAF), an independent foundation aimed at supporting scientific research and new technologies that will benefit humanity. Dr. Parkin is selected for his discovery and invention of the “spin valve,” which enabled a more than 1,000-fold increase in the ability of computer hard-disk drives to store data. This groundbreaking technology gave us the ability to organize, archive, analyze and share vast amounts of human history, culture and knowledge in digital form. The prize is worth 1 million Euros.

Video: Physicist Stuart Parkin won the 2014 Millennium Technology Prize for his pioneering contribution to the science and application of nano-magnetic material properties, spintronics. His innovations have enabled vast increases in digital storage, which have greatly facilitated the ‘big data’ revolution and significantly transformed human access to knowledge.

Dr. Parkin, a pioneer in the science and application of spintronic materials, invented the spin-valve read head in 1989 at IBM Research and later transformed this scientific achievement into a practical and cost-efficient data storage technology at the heart of every computing device.

At the time and still today, businesses in every industry were looking to the future of storage and data management as they faced a problem springing from the very core of their success – managing the increasing amounts of data created on a daily basis. Dr. Parkin’s ability to understand and manipulate the properties, movement and interaction of various materials at the atomic scale brought the world a new class of storage technology still found in nearly every hard drive sold today and signaled a shift to a more data-centric than computing-centric world.

“Technology Academy Finland is proud to be able to award the 2014 Millennium Technology Prize to Prof. Stuart S.P. Parkin and his innovations leading to a revolutionary growth in digital information storage capacity,” said Juha Ylä-Jääski, CEO, Technology Academy Finland. “Prof. Parkin’s innovations represent the true spirit and every aspect of the Millennium Technology Prize: groundbreaking innovations opening up possibilities to totally new services which address a large audience and improve the quality of life. Furthermore, in the future Prof. Parkin’s innovations may pave the way to a totally new era in computing with dramatically increased capacity and reduced power consumption.”

Since the invention of the spin-valve twenty five years ago, Dr. Parkin continues to play a pivotal role in forging a new era of computing and the integration of technology into our daily lives. Building off decades of research into systems, semiconductors and their underlying chemical, electrical and computational bases, he also invented a new technology – Racetrack memory – that uses magnetic nanowires as high-density data storage devices and has the potential to out-perform and replace all of today’s data storage and memory devices (disk drives, FLASH, DRAM & SRAM).

“I am both humbled and honored to receive the Millennium Technology Prize from the Technology Academy Finland,” said Dr. Stuart Parkin, IBM Fellow, IBM Research. “Who would have known that my invention would one day sit at the heart of today’s cloud, social media and data analytics applications, and affect the way people share information and communicate with each other on the Internet, on our mobile devices and across the world. This prize is a wonderful affirmation of the importance and relevance of my research on artificially-engineered materials, which has been the focus of my work for over 30 years.”

While continuing his work at IBM Research, Dr. Parkin has also been appointed to the positions of Director of the Max Planck Institute for Microstructure Physics, a leading research organization located in Halle, Germany, and Alexander von Humboldt Professor at the Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenburg, a university with a long and strong tradition in the sciences and humanities.  Dr. Parkin will be pursuing a range of research activities including new storage-class memory devices, room temperature superconductivity and post-silicon cognitive computing at these institutes as well as at the IBM Research – Almaden laboratory in San Jose, California. Throughout its history, IBM has collaborated with external entities, including universities, organizations and other corporations to advance research in a variety of technologies.

This includes investigating materials whose properties are influenced by spin-polarized currents that could allow for high-performance and high density memory-storage devices, and, secondly, materials whose conductivity is managed by the controlled flow of tiny ionic currents, leading to very low-power memory and computing devices that are inspired by the workings of the human brain.

About Dr. Stuart Parkin
Dr. Stuart Parkin is an IBM Fellow and Manager of the Magnetoelectronics group at IBM Research – Almaden in San Jose, California and a consulting professor in the Department of Applied Physics at Stanford University. He is also director of the IBM-Stanford Spintronic Science and Applications Center, which was formed in 2004. He received his BA and PhD degrees from the University of Cambridge and joined IBM as a postdoctoral fellow in 1982, becoming a permanent member of the staff the following year.  

About The Millennium Technology Prize
The Millennium Technology Prize is Finland’s tribute to life-enhancing technological innovation. The prize is awarded every second year for a technological innovation that significantly improves the quality of human life, today and in the future. It is awarded by the Technology Academy Finland, an independent foundation established by Finnish industry, in partnership with the Finnish state. The laureates were selected by the Board of the Foundation on the basis of recommendations made by the International Selection Committee.

To learn more about how the spin valve works visit:

Contact(s) information
Derrick Meyer
IBM Media Relations
1 (408) 927-2205

Source: IBM